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CIoJ

TRANSPORT

INFRASTRUCTURE

MOTOR

INDUSTRY

VEHICLE

APPRAISAL

TECHNICAL

ANALYSIS

History and Ownership

Peugeot as a brand-name has been around for over 200 years starting as humble blacksmiths and diversifying over time into a range of domestic products such dining-table condiments - which are still manufactured elsewhere under licence from Peugeot.  A significant turning point was into road transport with the manufacture of Peugeot bicycles and motor-assisted bicycles (mopeds), then the manufacture and sale of cars, small and larger commercial vehicles which continue to this day.  While Peugeot is based in France it manufactures increasingly overseas - from Germany to China with many stops in between.

Notably, Peugeot family members have featured in the management of the company since inception, a fact which has irked certain groups of individuals and the French Government over the years - the French Government interfering with the financial balance of the company by insisting upon changes of strategy - for instance the bankrupted Citroen brand was forcibly backed into the Peugeot Motor Company.  In recent years following a temporary profitability/cash crisis, the Chinese Dong-Feng Corporation and French government funds and shareholdings were introduced, seriously diluting the Peugeot family influence.  This quasi-political manoeuvring uncomfortably mirrors that interference undergone by the ‘British Leyland Motor Corporation’ and predecessors experienced from the 1950’s onward to their demise.  

Fortunately, some degree of stability now reigns within Groupe Peugeot and it is hoped this will be permanent.  Governments and their politicians need to recognise that interfering in corporations is way outside their areas of expertise and will only have negative results.  A political and economic interference concomitant with Brexit, for which Peugeot remains coldly and fully prepared to cut off the sick man of Europe.  Rumours have it (November 2019) that the joint venture with Dong-Feng in China has hit very stormy waters and this may be just one of the side effects of the suspected world-wide recession triggered by ‘Mouth-and-Trousers-Man’.  As Tonto would have said, “white man speak with forked tongue”.

Current major car/LCV brands held by Groupe Peugeot include Citroen, DS, Vauxhall-Opel (Vopel) and FCA (Fiat-Chrysler Group billed as ‘merged’ ) following the unfortunate and early demise of The excessively dynamic Sergio Marchionne.  Also Jaguar-Land Rover has been rumoured as a possible acquisition target.  However, it is difficult to envisage just how far management may need to be stretched and diluted to span this wide collection of brands - let alone finance them adequately.  To underpin this, industry observers still have some difficulty in understanding significant financial benefits from the purchase of Vopel from General Motors in the short and medium term, and are thus still struggling with the efficacy of the FCA acquisition.  Vopel would bring additional under-used production capacity across Europe and Asia, suggesting Peugeot may have plans to in due course consolidate production into the more responsive and cost-efficient plants, something they have been attempting in recent years.  The role of FCA is even more difficult to understand in the short term, particularly bearing in mind the direct competition between brands/models - for instance Alfa Romeo versus DS - we should ignore any quality/longevity comparisons when marketing these brands,as this is generally the habit of consumers.

CEO (Carlos Tavares) was parachuted into the Peugeot Group in 2014 following the latest French re-structuring and re-organisation of the Citroen-Peugeot company referred to above.  Tavares has supervised sweeping changes to model profitability and initially the loss-leaders were axed - primarily the much-loved RCZ, 208cc and 308cc models which despite being sold at a loss were giving the Peugeot brand in particular, a much-needed ‘halo’ enhancement of what was then a shaky brand reputation.  Factory closures have ensued, with manpower slowly being trimmed towards international motor industry standards - yet in parts still limited by stringent French employment protection standards.  The immediate result was approval by the French Stock Market and together with revaluation of assets and removal of a pile of loan interest, meant a very swift return to operating profitability, and although fragile appears to be improving despite industry and wider economic down-trends.

The current position is a progressively commonalised light commercial vehicle ranges leading to shared design and production costs.  Platform-sharing has also been introduced across - and within - the car brands.  For instance the large saloon 508 and the Vopel Insignia share many components and it may be that this is less desirable if distinct brand identities are to be preserved.  With their prior experience in differentiation between the Citroen, DS and Peugeot brands, it is to be hoped that visually similar vehicles will not be identifiable extended across brands beyond the new 508/Insignia range, similarly the FCA ranges.  

In July 2019 PSA is opting to become a ‘European’ company suffixed Societe Europeane’ -instead of being a French company (SA) to more accurately reflect their now widely spread operations based across Europe - and worldwide.

Brand Nameplates - Links

Citroen - quirkiness explored - bold design - attractive pricing

DS - Premium French design quality – leading-edge innovation - premium price

Peugeot - solid engineering excellence - conventional innovation

Vauxhall-Opel - appealing to VFM private buyers and especially the fleet sector  

Alfo Romeo - THE brand for enthusiasts - not appealing elsewhere despite great current offer

Abarth - Fabulous engineering, superb performance in the old school, but who will actually buy one?

Fiat - fulfilling patriotic needs of Italian consumers with world-wide peripheral sales including JV’s

Jeep - you want macho-motor, got a big garage?

Dodge - appealing to somebody, somewhere who wants a typically American brand

Distribution Networks - UK

Manufacturer/brand operations are generally keeping their physical distance from retailers.  A number of direct ‘sales’ sites via the internet including social media in which finance schemes and ‘special editions’ are push-sold.  Internet sales enquiries are channelled through local dealers after the transaction price is virtually set in stone - thus insulating PSA from the vagaries of used car trading and the retail customer who is still typically regarded as ‘dirty’ despite Peugeot talking ‘at’ them via social media.

At retailer level, there is a complex and uneasy mix of competing solus dealers, small dealer groups and Succursales (PSA - owned retail outlets operating ambivalently towards inde owners within their own networks and using pricing techniques unavailable to struggling inde retailers).  Service points would appear to be a logical and simple customer convenience as gin-palace retail showrooms become unviable, but do not appear to be supported in the UK despite attrition of full-service retail dealers.  Despite this, factory-promoted service-only outlets operate in the French home market and across mainland Europe.

In the UK, retailer standards of an expansive and traditional character are vigorously enforced,  This is out of step with current economics and consumer buying behaviour.  There has been dealer attrition in important markets, leaving total market share withering on the vine.  Buyers now carefully consider the complexity/time/cost of reaching franchised service points and the frequency required, which may now be somewhat more distant than average.

Customer Experience

The following opinions are taken from analysis of customer interviews, our own Omnibus Survey data, discussions with independent service shops and dealer groups, thus generalised trends are discernable from this data.  They should still not however be considered to be exhaustive.

Retail coverage and quality has led to too many retail and fleet customer defections from the mainstream Peugeot and Citroen brands. This is coupled with real and persisting rumours of product quality and reliability concerns.  This is particularly focused upon unreliable electronics and a range of in-house engines co-designed alternately with Ford and BMW, which operate at very high specific outputs (a racehorses need excellent nutrition).  Through the Ford collaboration (Gemini) customer engines are (or were) supplied in significant volumes to Mazda, Mitsubishi, Tata and Geely group brands - all of which except Ford have now made alternative arrangements following brand ownership changes.

There are clear signs that following a concerted programme within the whole Groupe Peugeot, that product design, specification and build quality is leading to highly desirable and reliable vehicles within their respective markets, although in typical ‘Brit’ fashion, pub talk says any French product is to be avoided at all costs.  Brits just LOVE pub talk, example Brexit!